When you first meet Brandon DeGroot, 6, of Vallejo, he'll tell you "I love spiders and snakes" and he'll flash a big smile.
He's the kind of youngster that arachnologists, including Professor Eileen Hebets of the University of Nebraska and Professor Jason Bond, of the University of California, Davis, welcome to their fold.
Bond, associate dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, and the Evert and Marion Schlinger Endowed Chair in Insect Systematics, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, is chairing the American Arachnological Society's meeting June 26-30 at UC Davis with Lisa Chamberland, postdoctoral research associate, Department of Entomology and Nematology, and Joel Ledford, assistant professor of teaching, Department of Plant Biology, College of Biological Sciences.
An open house, "Eight-Legged Encounters," set from 1 to 4 p.m., Saturday, June 25 at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, will kick off the conference. Hebets is co-hosting it as part of a U.S. National Science Foundation grant, “Eight-Legged Encounters,” that she developed as an outreach project to connect arachnologists with communities, especially youth. It's free, open to the public, and family friendly.
The open house promises to be one of the biggest events--if not the leggiest!--of the year on the UC Davis campus and beyond. A powerhouse of arachnologists, Bond said, will be at the open house. “There will be everything--spider specimens, live arachnids, activities, artwork, etc."
Some 20 exhibits and activities will be set up in the hallway of the Academic Surge Building, said Tabatha Yang, the Bohart Museum's education and outreach coordinator. A popular activity at the Bohart is its live petting zoo, comprised of Madagascar hissing cockroaches or "hissers," stick insects and tarantulas. Youths, especially, delight in holding the hissers and stick insects.
But back to Brandon.
"Brandon has always loved spiders, insects and snakes, starting when he was a toddler looking for bugs in our yard," said his mother, Heather DeGroot. "Brandon was always in the dirt, and my other son, Mason, now 8, was always in the grass." Last Tuesday, June 7, while Heather kept busy coordinating the Solano County Fair exhibits at McCormack Hall, in preparation for the June 16-19 fair, Brandon kept busy looking for critters outside. When he'd find one, he'd excitedly announce his treasure, and even more excitedly, show it to all.
So, in between his bug hunts, we thought we'd interview Brandon.
Bug Squad: "How old are you?
Brandon: "I'm six and I go to kindergarten at Vallejo Charter School. I'm almost in the first grade." (He graduated from kindergarten June 9.)
Bug Squad: "Brandon, how long have you loved spiders and snakes?"
Brandon: "A long time."
Bug Squad: "Cool! Why do you love spiders?"
Brandon: "I like the poison and how they eat."
Bug Squad: "What do you want to be when you grow up, Brandon?"
Brandon: "I want to be a scientist about animals. See my snake tattoo on my arm?" (He displayed the washable tattoo that tattoo artist Jason Meyers of Concord created just for him.)
Bug Squad: "Fantastic! What makes you happy?"
Bug Squad: "Does your brother Mason like snakes and spiders?"
Brandon: "No, he only likes BMX." (Mason will be competing as part of Team USA at a BMX competition in Nance, France in July. The entire family will be there to support him.)
Bug Squad: "Why doesn't Mason like spiders and snakes?"
Brandon: "He doesn't want to get hurt by them."
Bug Squad: "Do you like bees?"
Brandon: "I like bees. They pollinate the flowers and make them change colors. I like ladybugs and I like letting them crawl on me. I like walking sticks. I saw them on YouTube and they look just like sticks."
Bug Squad: "Do you like ants?"
Brandon: "I like ants but I don't like fire ants." (He sees fire ants on family trips to Houston, Texas.)
Bug Squad: "Do you like butterflies?"
Brandon: "I like them because of their colors."
Bug Squad: "Do you like dragonflies?"
Brandon: "I like how fast they fly and they nibbled on my family at the Yuba River but they didn't nibble on me."
Bug Squad: "Brandon, do you like sports or play sports?"
Brandon: "I played basketball and I'm going to learn to play tennis."
Bug Squad: "Do you like girls?"
Brandon (raising his eyebrows): "No, I like dogs."
Bug Squad: "Do you have a dog?"
Bug Squad: What's your favorite food?"
Brandon: "Strawberries and chocolate."
And with that, he opened his lunch box, picked out a strawberry, and shared it with a bug that he had just collected in the McCormack Hall gardens.
"Here you go," Brandon told the bug, later identified by Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology, UC Davis, as an aphid. "I'm feeding you so you won't get hungry."
Honey bees weren't the only insects at the 2022 California Honey Festival, held Saturday, May 7 in downtown Woodland.
Walking sticks, aka stick insects, grabbed some of the attention, too.
Officials at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, UC Davis, brought along display cases of bee specimens that showed the diversity of bees. They also brought along stick insects for visitors to hold and photograph.
UC Davis undergraduate students Lauren Spellman and Pichawi "Salee" Sangrawiakararat delighted in holding the Peruvian stick insects. Both are first-year students. Lauren is majoring in environmental sciences while Salee is undeclared. When someone suggested that Salee might consider majoring in entomology (science of insects), she smiled.
The Bohart Museum of Entomology, directed by Lynn Kimsey, UC Davis distinguished professor of entomology, houses a worldwide collection o 8 million insect specimens. It also includes a gift shop, stocked with insect-themed gifts such as hoodies, t-shirts, books, posters, and jewelry; and its popular live "petting zoo," comprised of Madagascar hissing cockroaches, stick insects and tarantulas.
The Bohart, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, is newly opened to the public this spring after two years of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. Groups must make reservations and everyone must follow the UC Davis visitor guidelines.
Upcoming weekend programs, free and open to the public:
- Saturday, May 28, 1 to 4 p.m.
"Bugs in Ag: What Is Eating Our Crops and What is Eating Them?"
- Saturday, June 25, 1 to 4 p.m.
Saturday, July 16. 1 to 4 p.m.
"Celebrating 50 Years of the Dogface Butterfly: California's State Insect"
Local Spider Information (Essig Museum of Entomology)
BioDivDay is Sunday. March 6 at the UC Davis Conference Center: Can't wait to see you!
That's the message the organizers of the 11th annual UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Day are spreading throughout social media.
The UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Day is a free, science-based event that takes place from 11 a..m. to 3 pm. in the UC Davis Conference Center, 550 Alumni Lane. Admission and parking are free, but visitors must adhere to the COVID-19 Campus Ready guidelines. Masks will be required in accordance with campus policies. This year's event is especially geared for undergraduates and other members of the UC Davis community.
Visitors to the Conference Center will see displays from 11 museums or collections on campus in one large exposition in the ballrooms, and be able to ask questions of the scientists from the:
- Arboretum and Public Garden
- UC Davis Bee Haven
- Bohart Museum of Entomology
- Botanical Conservatory
- California Raptor Center
- Center for Plant Diversity
- Department of Anthropology Museum
- Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology
- Nematode Collection
- Paleontology Collection
- Phaff Yeast Culture Collection
Admission and parking are free, but visitors must adhere to the COVID-19 Campus Ready guidelines. Masks will be required in accordance with campus policies, organizers said. Visitors can also sign up at the Conference Center for limited tours. Several collections or museums are offering side trips, with registration to take place at the Conference Center.
Latest updates today:
Bohart Museum of Entomology. At the Bohart Museum booth in the Conference Center, UC Davis alumnus and Bohart scientist Fran Keller, a professor at Folsom Lake College, will join Bohart associate Greg Kareofelas in discussing the state insect, the California dogface butterfly, Zerene eurydice, and its host plant, California false indigo, Amorpha californica. This is the 50th anniversary of the year that the California Legislature named the butterfly the state insect. Keller authored the children's book, The Story of the Dogface Butterfly, with photos by Kareofelas and Keller and illustrations by former UC Davis student Laine Bauer. Keller and Kareofelas collaborated on a California dogface butterfly poster that's for sale in the gift shop.
Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and a UC Davis distinguished professor of entomology, will discuss the Asian giant hornet. Vespa mandarinia (nicknamed "the murder hornet" by the news media), and will show specimens of the hornet, other species of Vespa, and Vespa nests.
Nematode Collection. The nematode collection will feature mostly root-knot nematodes and Ascaris (roundworm) nematodes, according to coordinator and nematologist Shahid Siddique, assistant professor, and doctoral student Alison Coomer. The display will include:
- What's in the jar?
- Celery infected with root-knot nematodes
- Tree swallow infected with Diplotriaena
- White-tailed deer eye infected with a Thelazia species
- Peach root infected with root-knot nematodes
- Mormon crickets infected with Gordius robustus
- Lettuce infected with root-knot nematodes
- Garlic damaged by Ditylenchus dipsaci
- Horse stomach infected with three parasites: Parascaris (roundworms), tapeworms, and botfly larvae.
- Grape roots infected with root-knot nematodes
- Sweet potato infected with root-knot nematodes
- Sugar beet infected with cyst nematodes
- Peach root infected with cyst nematodes
- Sugar beet infected with root-knot nematodes
- Ascaris lumbricoides (roundworm)
- Minke whale infected infected with ascaridoid nematodes
- Heartworm of dog
Nematologist Steve Nadler, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, explains what a nematode is on this YouTube video presented at the 2021 UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Day.
So, let's see--bees, birds, bugs, plants, raptors, fossils, nematodes (aka round worms), and yeast cultures. Bring your camera, your questions to the scientists, your smile, your COVID-19 pandemic approvals and wear that mask.
And as they say: "Can't wait to see you!"
The UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Day is traditionally held on the Saturday of Presidents' Day weekend. However, last year's event was virtual, and this year's event is centrally located in an exposition. For more information, access the UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Day website and/or connect with Instagram,Twitter, and Facebook.
If you'd like to take a world tour and learn about such fascinating insects as darkling beetles, Australian walking sticks, giant African millipedes and others, be sure to sign up for the "Virtual Insect Palooza with the Insect Discovery Lab."
The program, open to all ages but limited to 25 participants, is set for 4 to 5 p.m., Friday, June 12 on Zoom, announced Norm Gershenz, chief executive officer and co-founder of the Bay Area-based SaveNature.Org. He also directs the organization's Insect Discovery Lab. He co-founded SaveNature.Org with wife Leslie Saul-Gershenz, a UC Davis scientist who holds a doctorate in entomology from the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
"Professor Norm" will lead what is being billed as a "live, wild experience featuring arthropods from around the world." Viewers will be able to ask questions at the end of the program.
SaveNature.Org is an award-winning conservation organization which presents more than 800 educational outreach programs to some 38,000 children annually. National Geographic, Time magazine, and ABC's "World News Tonight" have all spotlighted the work.
Dedicated to international conservation, SaveNature.Org has raised more than $4.7 million to help preserve thousands of acres of rain forest, coral reef and desert habitat around the world, said Gershenz, who created and developed the first Adopt-an-Acre program in the United States, as well as the award-winning Conservation Parking Meter.
His credentials include 18 years with the San Francisco Zoo as an educator, member of the animal care staff, fundraiser, and researcher. In addition, he has worked as a field biologist and naturalist in Borneo, Malaysia, India, Nepal, Costa Rica and Namibia. "I have tracked black rhinos in Zimbabwe, chased orangutans in Borneo, and stalked the elusive platypus in Australia (with his camera)," he related. In his conservation work, he has handled boas and bobcats, pandas and elephants, snow leopards and koalas, hippos and hornbills.
In 2010, Gershenz received the prestigious Elizabeth Terwilliger Prize for Conservation. In 2018 the American Association of Zookeepers presented him with the Lifetime Achievement Award for outstanding work in nature conservation.
And this one, too.
And that one over there!
When UC Davis employees and their offspring visited the Bohart Museum of Entomology during the recent "Take Your Daughters and Sons to Work" Day, reactions ranged from awe to "wow!"
They held walking sticks (stick insects), Madagascar hissing cockroaches and tomato hornworms. Two youngsters held tarantulas. And all checked out the butterfly and beetle specimens.
One little girl, Olivia Bingen, 4, who was there with her father, Steve Bingen of the UC Davis Department of Music, was dressed in pink and asked the Bohart scientists if they had any pink butterflies.
"She likes pink," her father said. She also likes to play the violin.
The museum, founded in 1946 by the late Richard M. Bohart and now directed by Lynn Kimsey, UC Davis professor of entomology, is open to the public from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 5 p.m., Mondays through Fridays, except on holidays. Admission is free.
Special weekend events, free and family friendly, are held throughout the year. The next weekend event is Moth Night from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 3. Blacklighting will take place just outside the museum. Inside, the attendees will visit the museum's displays and, outside, they will see what insects are attracted to the black-lighted white sheets.
Among those scheduled to host Moth Night are John "Moth Man" DeBenedictis; senior museum scientist Steve Heydon; entomologist Jeff Smith, who curates the Lepitopdera (butterflies and moths) section of the Bohart; and Greg Kareofelas, Bohart associate and naturalist.